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Skyflash: Jetman-like wings designed to allow ground take off

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February 22, 2013

The Skyflash one-man, jet-propelled wing undergoes testing

The Skyflash one-man, jet-propelled wing undergoes testing

Image Gallery (73 images)

While most of us sit around grumbling and demanding to know, “where’s my jetpack?", German Fritz Unger and a group of friends have decided to do something about it. On a shoestring budget they are building their own one-man, jet-propelled wing. Dubbed “Skyflash,” it’s meant to not only emulate the jet wing made famous by Jetman Yves Rossy, but to go one better by taking off from the ground instead of having to be dropped from an aircraft.

Ever since he became a pilot at the age of fourteen, Fritz Unger dreamed of flying without the encumbrance of a plane. Inspired by the exploits of Rossy and world-record skydiver Felix Baumgartner, Unger banded together with some friends and began work on Skyflash with the support of web advertising and donations.

With a name right out of Thunderbirds, Skyflash is, if nothing else, ambitious. The wing, which is worn like a backpack, is designed to take off from the ground and, if successful, will be the smallest twin engined plane ever built. It’s based on the wings of the condor – a soaring bird with the ability to alter its wing structure to take advantage of variable mountain wind conditions.

Taxi test of the Skyflash one-man, jet-propelled wing

Aircraft designers already use morphing wings on modern jetliners to help on takeoffs and landings and Skyflash’s wings change for the same reason, though on a much smaller scale. Its wings, that measure 11.15 foot (3.5 m) tip to tip, are made up of three units that separate to provide greater surface area and more lift on take off and then reunite during flight for speed and stability.

The wing is powered by two microturbine diesel jet-engines fitted into the central “wingbody," which is the part that straps to the pilot. It contains the computer and electronics and the computer links to an 8-inch graphic interface strapped to the pilot’s arm. The fuel tanks are in the wings and connect to the fuel system automatically when installed on the wingbody before flight.

Skyflash weighs 55.12 lbs (25 kg) and boasts a maximum takeoff weight of 354.94 lbs (161 kg) and has an undercarriage with 10-inch (25.4 cm) off road tires to take the load and allow Skyflash to take off from grass runways.

Engine test

The controls for Skyflash are alarmingly simple. In addition to the wrist display, there’s a throttle held in the pilot’s right hand. Climbing and steering are achieved by the pilot shifting his body weight. The heat-proof boots worn aren't just a precaution, but a design feature because the jets’ thrust angle is controlled by dipping the boots into the exhaust like the control vanes on a V2 rocket. To turn, the pilot stretches out an arm and climbing is done by bending the knees.

Skyflash’s cruising speed is 68 knots (78 mph, 126 km/h) and its service ceiling is 11,800 feet (3,600 m). Range is 54 nautical miles (62 mi, 100 km) with a flight time of one hour. The Skyflash team is a bit coy about landing, saying that it’s “the same way you took off,” which is not very reassuring, since landing is the most dangerous part of any flight. However, safety is not ignored. Skyflash’s wings have quick release mechanisms and the wingbody incorporates a parachute.

Skyflash dimensions

So far, three prototypes of the wing have been built – a small aluminum model for wind tunnels and flight tests, a 1:4 scale proof of concept model and a 3:4 scale model to show that it scales up. The completed Skyflash is made out of aviation plywood covered with shrink-wrap plastic to keep costs down. The parts were fabricated using lasers and CNC technology and assembled by hand.

If the wooden Skyflash works as designed, the team will move on to Skyflash I, which will use glass-fiber construction and more powerful engines that will allow it to double its performance and quintuple its range.

The video below shows Skyflash undergoing ground tests.

Source: Skyflash

Update: This article was modified on Feb. 24, 2013, to clarify the weight of the device. The original weight listed of 286.6 lbs (130 kg) is the typical weight of the Skyflash and pilot.

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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36 Comments

Coolest gizmo ever in Gizmag.

And hey - it doesn't say "Eco", "Green" or "Sustainable".

Todd Dunning
22nd February, 2013 @ 09:30 pm PST

If it works, awesome!

Joel Detrow
22nd February, 2013 @ 10:46 pm PST

That was not designed by someone who knows what he is doing. The four wheel undercarriage is much too heavy and the air intake is inefficient. I also doubt the wing provides enough lift for a reasonable takeoff/landing speed.

Slowburn
23rd February, 2013 @ 12:48 am PST

Dakoroman, Sydney: Skyflash shown here is still a complex machine.

ROMANOZ PROPULSION SYSTEM = THRUST+LIFT=AT THE SAME TIME

Romanoz Flying Machine = goes up in the air from a still position/ VTOL, hovers, enters into the water/ diving/ gliding, then breaching out of the water, back in the air, landing with complete safety. Human powered, or powered. All with the same Propulsion System: ROMANOZ.

For air/ gas/ water/ snow/ sand.

Airplanes without wings, "helicopters" without rotor blades, Deltaplanes/ wings human powered/ or powered with no need for thermal air/ hills/ wind, start flying from the street/ park, landing anywhere. Many, many applications for air/ water/ underwater.

Dakoroman, Sydney
23rd February, 2013 @ 03:18 am PST

Awesome project, looking forward for more news!

According to their website the plane weighs about 25kg. 130kg is the total weight including the pilot - Easy to carry I think...

MaxImumCommand
23rd February, 2013 @ 04:59 am PST

Taking off is optional, landing is compulsory. Would like to see a (safe) landing.

Dan Barkley
23rd February, 2013 @ 05:17 am PST

Landing IS NOT the most dangerous part of any flight. Taking off is the most dangerous because you're going slow, running out of runway and you can go into an unrecoverable stall or not gain enough altitude to clean obstacles.

Mitko Ian
23rd February, 2013 @ 05:30 am PST

Combine the propulsion and wings with the Jean-Yves Blondeau designed "roller suit" and that could be an even more interesting device. I'd definitely NOT want to take off or land that thing on anything but a smooth paved surface. A dirt or grass runway would beat the doodoo out of you.

OR remove the wings and have a jet propelled roller suit. Hmmm...

Vince Pack
23rd February, 2013 @ 08:27 am PST

Awe Todd don't let those guys on your radio make you afraid of the future. It's going to be "Eco", "Green" "Sustainable" and have jetpacks. We're lucky to see it all unfold here on Gizmag. Great project, keep us posted.

The Hoff
23rd February, 2013 @ 09:45 am PST

Sorry, I'll believe this thing can fly only if it ever takes off. People have been "designing" these things for ages. None have flown. I think somebody's been watching The Rocketeer again.

Gadgeteer
23rd February, 2013 @ 10:01 am PST

I applaud the effort but sticking your feet into the jet exhaust to steer? Thats like dragging your toes on a gokart for brakes.

JimD
23rd February, 2013 @ 03:12 pm PST

Now while I may have reservations about the configuration or the ability to land safely, I would NEVER say that the people designing it know nothing about "What they are doing".. Slowburn et al must not have seen RCpowers flying bus... Hey if a flying school-bus works, then why wouldn't this.... (in principle), Im hoping that they have made a flying RC model, or it may be a bit dangerous on the first try.. Note, the Pilot appears to have a Licence therefore has at least sat in the Left seat a few times..

It may be about weight distribution.(CG) and wheel location.. Now the wing concept, though rudimentary "may" work well (I haven't tested the config, so don't know... ) Fowler type flaps, or telescopic wing sections DO increase low-speed planform area, and thereby available lift)

BUT, will it rotate, will it get off the ground.... and at what speed will the wing be able to rotate (will it work with the knees dragging on the ground??

I still tend towards movable control surfaces (TE spoiler/flap elevons), rather than weight shift, also, would it be better to give the landing gear a bit of damped travel??? (compare the gear travel on an F-18 etc) allowing the craft to have a decent ink rate without the pilot's head being permanently rearranged...

Of course it may be designed to be landed under parachute in reality, therefore the wheels, can just be a drop-off trolley....

Oh also, is there a need for the RC controller??just another data-link to fail, a simple switch system will allow on-board control of movable wing surfaces and throttle... leave the RC controller for an observer on the ground...

MD
24th February, 2013 @ 02:18 am PST

I know someone is going to kick me, but why couldn't the flyer/pilot/birdman just lie tummy down on the wing that is below him. That way, it is easier to mount the wheels and to protect the flyer in case of a bumpy takeoff or landing? Also, it would be more reassuring to the pilot, when he is up there, to be resting on a wing.

Nantha
24th February, 2013 @ 07:00 am PST

Markets for:

TV & Movie shooting

007 Bond sequence since Thunderball,

Rentals & Sales

Search & Rescue

Surveying

Host sky safaris overflying key locales & landing to camp base site mobile then fly again next day etc.

Radical

Stephen N Russell
24th February, 2013 @ 07:25 am PST

Franz Reichelt - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Reichelt

Paul Hayden
24th February, 2013 @ 11:17 pm PST

One simple way to save fuel is to have a catapult assisted launch, or a tow line as in glider launching.during the Second World War, the ME163 had a drop-off undercarriage, and landed on a skid.

The so-called heatproof boots look like they were just wrapped in gaffer tape. A simple thrust deflector would seem a better idea to me.

Lay on top of the wing does seem like a good idea, although putting the jet engine on the underside would also be required, otherwise it can be a rather hot ride!

Having variable geometry wings does seem to complicate the design quite a lot, just for the sake of getting some extra speed. I would prefer a simple, fixed wing design. Less to go wrong.

Has anyone tried a jet powered hang glider? That has a simple fabric sail on a suitable framework.

David Colton Clarke
25th February, 2013 @ 06:58 am PST

I feel like I was watching a cartoon or an old time, first-attempt-at-flight video

mados123
25th February, 2013 @ 08:24 am PST

Jet powered hang glider is something totally different as the jet engine becomes effectively useless at those extremely low speeds.

Here´s someone who tried that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AXuy2-YoQY

But I don´t think that hang glider flying will be comparable at all to flying this plane...

Also I don´t think they use a variable geometry wing. As far as I understand it they have a special 'outer wing' that is needed for lift and stability.

Isn´t a mass hanging under a fixed point more stable than a mass above it?

MaxImumCommand
25th February, 2013 @ 08:44 am PST

130kgs of life and material considered in a spin, tumble, turbulence, only held up by a slow speed cambered wing made of thin bits of wood and plastic skin being put thru such stresses is frightening.

Jetmans one piece* composite wing seems a much safer and logical option thats also proven itself excellent- strength in small wing design with a very high loading is paramount.

The idea of flying head first so close to the ground in something thats not always in contact with it is crazy and dumb. Jetman could achieve this idea safer with roller blades most probably, but the takeoff phase of flight is complicated actually and fraught with dangers- as he well knows in such detail being an airline pilot.

Kalavo
25th February, 2013 @ 08:50 am PST

Eat your heart out Wile E. Coyote!

Artisteroi Rlsh Gadgeteer
25th February, 2013 @ 08:56 am PST

This is the second post I've seen about the Romanoz propulsion system, the other one involving outboard motors. Not found on the web, no link provided. Time for Sydney Dakoroman to fish or cut bait.

Bruce H. Anderson
25th February, 2013 @ 09:02 am PST

Been there, done that. Back in the 80's I had a Gemini power unit for my hang glider. It consists of two 100 cc chainsaw engines turning 28" dia. propellers. They are mounted either side of the pilot. Because a hang glider pilot needs both hands to control the wing on takeoff, the throttle is operated by a "mouth throttle" an oversize clothes pin looking thing that you have in your mouth and chomp down to "step on the gas" . To take off, you run with the glider until the wing lifts itself and then give it the gas and up you go! A real rush! It's a little scary with those props turning 10,000 RPM about two feet on each side of your head, and two unmuffled two stroke engines wide open are really loud. I flew it a few times before graduating to a conventional ultralight airplane, (a little less stressful). I sold the unit to a guy that was going to power large RC model airplanes with the engines. A guy named Ed Sweeney manufactured the units. I don't think he still makes them. They actually worked pretty good. If you google; gemini hang glider power pack, they have some info on them. Jeff

jeffrey
25th February, 2013 @ 09:45 am PST

You'd have to be totally nuts to try to fly this thing! It's a broken neck or worse waiting to happen.

JAT
25th February, 2013 @ 09:53 am PST

+1 Nantha- sounds like a much more efficient design.

Even more awesome would be: http://minijunkie.jigsy.com/files/images/DEHellionsA.jpg -

Go Green Goblin Go!

Dennis Harrison
25th February, 2013 @ 10:36 am PST

I would love to see a refined and working model, plus I'd help sell em(looking for a job). I'd also love to own one.

Gargamoth
25th February, 2013 @ 12:00 pm PST

All it takes is a stray beer can or a cross gust to ruin your day.

sk8dad
25th February, 2013 @ 12:51 pm PST

Take a page from the RC airplane crowd... a bungee-slingshot system will get you airborne MUCH quicker and smoother, and with enough speed and the proper angle of attack to avoid a stall.

I wholeheartedly disagree with the comment that take-offs are harder than landings. Obviously you've never actually flown before. Landings are MUCH harder. If you miscalculate your glide angle or stall speed, you smash into the ground -- fatally. Whereas on a take off, as long as you have sufficient runway, you just go full-throttle and accelerate until you are airborne... at which point there is nothing to crash into. Any novice can take off on their own -- they let you do that on your first flight lesson. But it takes lots of practice before they let you attempt your first landing.

So this dolly system... it's nothing new. The Germans used the same system on the first jets and "rocket-planes" in WW2. I'm sure there is added lift from the WIG-effect being that close to the ground... but jeez that would be scary getting up to 100mph+ take-off speed with your face just inches from the asphalt.

Warhead
25th February, 2013 @ 01:09 pm PST

The 1980's GI-JOE personal flying wing, finally (almost) real.

Gregg Eshelman
25th February, 2013 @ 04:34 pm PST

This could ad new meaning to "making a nose landing!"

donwine
25th February, 2013 @ 06:30 pm PST

Yes David, some guys have put a jet engine on a hang glider. I saw one myself about 25 years ago. A guy was having a yard sale of sorts out in the desert near Hesperia, and he was selling some stuff that a former tenant had to leave behind when he was evicted. It was one of those propane powered Gluhareff pressure jet engines with about a 6" diameter exhaust tube. He thought that it was a rocket engine, so I had to explain to him what it was and how it worked.

- Randy

Expanded Viewpoint
25th February, 2013 @ 09:07 pm PST

I am so encouraged by people who dare to act on their dreams.

With that said however, may I suggest we look to the past as well.

Wendall Moore in the '60's at BellAeroSystems made a functioning "Jet Belt".

And yes, it was a "turbine" powered jet pack. It flew in excess of 3000 times with no incidents and could stay aloft for 30-40 minutes.

This was the offshoot of his hydrogen peroxide rocket belt that was all the rage back then. (but could only fly for 20 seconds)

We seem to forget the ideas that have worked such as Wendall Moore's Jet Belt and other concepts like the Piasecki VZ-8 Airgeep. What I would like to see is today's technology blended with those concepts.

Mivoyses
26th February, 2013 @ 04:11 am PST

This brings to mind more than ever SOMETHING not over everyone's head with the stuff that's available today THAT I'D LIKE TO SEE. Where is the Radio Control Test Dummy, that can function as test pilot for gadgets like these and to fine tune stunt apparatus.

Dave B13
26th February, 2013 @ 06:55 am PST

ever hit a small stone whilst flying along on a skateboard? now imagine the same bone jarring dead stop with a rocket strapped to your back.... You've Been Framed video in the offing...

wotsisface
26th February, 2013 @ 03:30 pm PST

It is a joke. It is a really bad joke and worse it is a poor effort. Anyone fooled into thinking that controlled flight would be possible with this ridiculous waste of time and materials, I have a bridge that you might be interested in buying.

Foxy1968
26th February, 2013 @ 09:09 pm PST

Gizmag can't possibly think this is a legit design. Next you'll be posting a 'Jetsons' cartoon as the "Next Breakthrough in Air Travel."

Dennis Roberts
28th February, 2013 @ 11:13 pm PST

@Mivoyses How about applying current technology to the Williams Aerial Systems Platform aka WASP?

A large number of engines suitable for exactly that are due to come available soon. The US military is decommissioning a bunch of jet powered cruise missiles deemed obsolete. Those missiles use the same engine the WASP prototypes did.

Gregg Eshelman
8th March, 2013 @ 05:50 pm PST
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